Bass is the electorate in the north-east of Tasmania, based on Launceston and including the Tamar valley to the north, the rural north-east, and Flinders Island. The middle class suburbs of Launceston are the largest strong Liberal area in the state; if Tasmania had single-member electorates like the rest of the country, this might have been the only place the Liberals recently would have won any seats.

Downtown Launceston
Downtown Launceston

This year, however, they’d be winning seats all over the place. Labor is on the nose, and that’s clearly in evidence in the north. Liberal (and Greens) posters, for example, all feature the name of the party prominently, but Labor posters just have a small and inconspicuous Labor logo down at the bottom.

In 2006, Labor led in Bass with 51.2% of the three-party vote on primaries, followed by the Liberals on 34.8% and the Greens on 14%. That set up a close contest for the last two seats. Greens preferences were tighter, so they held onto the final seat ahead of the third Labor candidate – making it the only electorate to split evenly, 2-2-1.

But since Labor lost out narrowly last time, it would take an almighty swing for it to lose another seat. Even a 15% swing away from Labor, to Liberals and Greens in some combination, would still leave Labor above two quotas and the result at 2-2-1.

There’s been some speculation that the Liberals could win a third seat at the expense of the Greens. While I don’t trust the polls that are putting the Greens on upwards of 25%, I think it’s still pretty clear their vote will go up rather than down, and that’s all they need to see them home safely in Bass.

If the Liberals are to somehow put together a majority in their own right, it could only be by winning a third seat in places like Bass, but I can’t see it happening. Barring some earth-shaking collapse in the Labor vote, Bass looks like being a much less interesting contest than in the past.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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